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Arizona Bill Requires Constitutional Loyalty Oath to Graduate

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

As important as public education is to our society, it’s understandable that any changes to it will be met with high scrutiny, and likely high controversy.  Some schools were met with challenges over something as simple as dropping cursive writing from the curriculum, while others felt the backlash for using textbooks that indicated that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.  But a current bill in Arizona is causing a constitutional debate, and actually it’s not even about classroom curriculum.

Arizona’s House Bill 2467, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Bob Thorpe, would require all high school seniors in Arizona public schools to recite a Constitutional Oath, similar to that taken by public officials and new citizens, to be eligible for graduation.  The oath would be,

I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

A similar bill, House Bill 2284, would require the Pledge of Allegiance in all public class rooms from First Grade on.  Normally, Bills like these wouldn’t be too controversial, but in this case the controversy comes from the wording, or lack thereof.  Critics of House Bill 2467 pointed out that Thorpe’s Bill does not include any exclusion for students of faiths and beliefs that would contradict with being required to take an oath that includes “So help me God.”  Rep. Thorpe has indicated a plan to reword the Bill to allow for such exemptions, but is still firm behind requiring the Oath of all students, telling the Arizona Republic,

‘It is my hope that if Arizona students are given the opportunity to also take a simple, Constitutional oath, that this will inspire them to learn more about our Constitutional form of government and the rich history of our nation and founding.’

Bill 2284, requiring that time be set aside each day for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, seems like a moot point for a vast majority of school districts that already do just that, but this particular Bill would eliminate the student’s personal choice to participate.  As currently worded, the section of “those students who wish” has been stricken from the Bill, removing the student’s ability to decline to participate.  Instead, the Bill asserts that a student’s parents/legal guardian must specifically request their child be excused.

Opponents of both Bills cite the exclusion of the student’s personal choice to participate.  The Constitutional Oath states “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” but would be required of all high school seniors, and the Bill states it to be a requirement for graduation.  And the current wording, though likely to change, would require a religious declaration from the student, something public officials who take a similar oath are not subjected to.  As Arizona and Texas are the two biggest “Red States” in the Union, do you see measures like these being adopted in the Lone Star State?

via The Huffington Post

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